Five Things I learned from Personal Finance Blogs & Books I wish I hadn’t

When I started this blog in October 2009, it was with Single Motherhood in mind. As it turns out, one of the cruxes of single parenthood is finances and so my blog eventually rambled in and out of personal financedom. It was never intended to be the focus of my blog but I have read up a lot on it and I have shared personal finance related stories on here. Sometimes, I learned some great information that has helped me evolve and grow tremendously. Other times, I learned things that started out awesome and promising but have gone completely wrong. So with that in mind, I now present you with:

Five Things I Learned from Personal Finance Blogs & Books I Wish I Hadn’t

1. Donna Freedman’s Coke Rewards Collection Methods

I love Donna Freedman. I admire her and respect her endlessly. I really do. That woman has been through some tougher than tough times and just came out sparkly like a diamond. And I’ve learned a lot from Donna, including about the pretty cool Coke Rewards program that she uses and abuses to earn free trips to the movies. But ever since I found out how Donna collects those Rewards points (hint: she doesn’t consume gallons of the stuff on a daily basis) my entire experience of walking to and from anything has completely changed. I see them everywhere. Sometimes I pick them up but sometimes I don’t. Basically it comes down to how many people are around me. Yes I’m ashamed of picking up trash in front of other people. But if I walk by the Coke Reward bottle cap, the inner war begins:

“Pick it up, it’s a COKE REWARD!”

“Dude no freaking way. I look adorable in my pencil skirt and heels, there are like a gazillion people around me, and there’s not a trash can right next to it. And I forgot the hand sanitizer. Again.”

“But hello it’s a COKE REWARD. If you saw a pile of three pennies, you’d pick them up!”

“Um, no I’m not sure I would.”

“Yeah right! Besides who cares what these people think of you picking up trash- I mean Coke Rewards? I bet most of them won’t even notice!”

“Excuse me but did you miss the part where I look fabulous today? Everyone notices me because I am amazing and fabulous and completely noticeable.”

“Oh get the hell over yourself, turn around, and pick up the trash- er Coke Reward.”

“Turn around? Are you out of your mind? I have to be somewhere like right now. And how crazy will I look then turning around and walking back… TO PICK UP TRASH THAT IS NOT MINE”

2. My FREE Credit Score thanks to CreditKarma

Almost every single personal finance blogger I know has at least mentioned CreditKarma if not dedicated an entire post to extolling its virtues. And sure, it provides information that is useful to know– if you plan on using credit in the nearish future. Which I don’t. But now that I know I can get this information, FOR FREE, I must know it. And it’s a downer of hangover proportions. My credit score is embarrassing and why shouldn’t it be? Ex and I let the house go to foreclosure a few years ago and this past December he allowed our co-signed leased car to get repossessed. My credit score is wrecked for the next decade or so. And CreditKarma reminds me of that– in two minutes and FOR FREE!

3. How to hold awesome garage sales

I live in the best location for a garage sale– right on a busy avenue directly across a park (traffic+parking). Once I started reading about all the money people made from them, I knew I had to have one. And I did and it was great selling all that crap from my stupidity of a marriage. And I even made a few hundred bucks!

But then I started wavering about future garage sales. When I want to get rid of stuff, I just want to get rid of stuff. But I knew I could probably sell it and make money. So where would I store it? Eventually I’d end up getting frustrated with the garage sale stuff slowly accumulating and I’d haul it to Goodwill instead. And feel bad about it. No money in my pocket so Goodwill could have some in theirs. And then I’d go through the cycle again.

I ended up having another garage sale when Stallion moved in and that was ok. Yes we made some money but it was seriously exhausting. When my grandmother passed away, it was generally assumed I would hold another garage sale. And I wanted to, I really did, but it felt like it’d be the biggest pain in the ass. So I wavered and hemmed and hawed and eventually just gave everything away again.

The thing is I keep not documenting what I’m giving away for tax purposes because I never intend to give it away and when I do it’s pretty spur of the moment. So recently I came up with a plan that is going to become my standard plan from now on and I’m going to say bye bye to Garage Sales. My grandmother often worked with Mother Teresa’s Sister’s of Charity here in Miami where they have a Women and Children’s Shelter and where they also manage the aid efforts in Haiti. The last couple of times I’ve donated to them have felt unlike anything I’ve ever felt before in my life. If you think giving to Goodwill feels good, wait until you start giving to something that has more of a direct impact.

4. How to coupon for groceries

Let me be clear, CVSing and couponing for groceries are, in my mind, two separate things. I love CVSing and I will CVS for a very long time. But couponing it up at the grocery store? I’m getting over this one in a big way.

It’s not even that I don’t have the space to properly coupon (I kind of don’t), it’s that bulk food buying has not made my life easier.

And now, we have Aldi. Not to mention, all of this coupons + sales math has really screwed with my sense of prices instead of improved them like most people do. Also, couponing and meal planning have never clicked together for me. I know they click for lots of people, just not me. And so I end up with lots of cans of tomatoes and not enough of everything else– especially meat. And the fruit and veggies? I buy a bunch because they’re on sale and we never eat them before they go bad. And I still end up caving in and getting take-out more often than I’d like.

I strongly considered experimenting with bulk cooking but that still gave me bulk food to deal with and didn’t appeal to me either so I’m going to try meal planning and food shopping on a weekly basis instead in a way very similar to what Carla’s recent interview with Simply Being Mum described.

5. Making Money from Blogs

Double-edged sword for me on this one. I go back and forth on this constantly. I really, really do. Right now, my WordPress blog is a free blog so outside of the occasional Amazon Affiliate link, I actually can’t earn money from the blog. I’d have to self-host it and then start figuring out just how to do this. And the thing is, when I first started blogging this was such an easy decision for me because I hated ads. So no ads meant no money from the blog. Simple!!

But since 2002, blogging has evolved and there are many ways to monetize a blog and actually ads have become the way I least despise because at least it’s authentic. An ad says, “Click me to earn this person some money!” and that’s it. You click it or you don’t. Where I really get all mixed up are things like Sponsored Posts and Giveaways, Product Reviews, Paid Guest Posts, and so on and so forth.

I used to do book reviews on here for free all the time and so I don’t think my reviewing a book I was given by a publisher would be out of character for me. And if I used something that I really really loved, I’ve come on here and told you so. But I was never given that stuff for free. Don’t we tend to naturally like things a little bit more when we didn’t have to pay for them?

And this is only half of it. There’s all that stuff about SEO and rankings and these people named the Yakezie that do something that revolves around something called Alexa that turns them into big money ballers. And there’s BlogHer and Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and it feels like bloggy prostitution or something. But at the same time, it’s a sensible idea– get paid to do something you like doing. And so I go back and forth, back and forth.


So there you have it! What have you learned from personal finance blogs or books that you wish you hadn’t? Or just in general, is there something you learned thinking it would be super helpful to only have it backfire on you?


14 thoughts on “Five Things I learned from Personal Finance Blogs & Books I wish I hadn’t

  1. I totally gave up couponing (outside of CVS and/or just for specific name brand items that aren’t at Aldi). Since I started shopping at Aldi last year, life at the grocery store has been so monumentally different (and less expensive); I love it! I hated couponing LOL. Loved this post; I wasn’t aware of the creditkarma bit.

  2. Oh my goodness – You are just too funny! You left a comment on my blog about your afghan mocking you and honestly I can see it in the corner sticking it’s tongue out. I haven’t been to visit, because I failed to include you in my feed burner last time I was here – a mistake I will rectify. Usually I don’t read “mommy blogs”, and mistakenly (again – I’m sorry and hanging my head) I thought that was your thing. Wrong! I just read several posts and you may mention family (who doesn’t?) but your writing is funny, quick and intelligent, and about so much more. So thanks for stopping by, and when that afghan give you a hard time, threaten to donate it! As for book reviews, I say go for it. I’m sure you can share your honest opinion even if you got the book for free. And that’s what I like to see in a review. I don’t want you to summarize the whole thing and then offer analysis of why the main character became an ax murder. Tell me enough about it so I know what kind of book it is, and then tell me why you loved, hated or have no strong feelings about it. Have a fantastic day – and thanks again for stopping by.

    • Aw thank you Robin! Comments like yours make me smile and think I’m not entirely crazy for sticking to my rambly all over the place style. That is exactly what my afghan feels like and when the cat gets its paws on it and pulls some yarn out– yup that’s it.
      There is so no need to apologize! Everyone adds blogs for different reasons. My personal feed is quite chaotic and rambly, like me! You were instantly added because you crocheted and are a librarian which means you enjoy two of my favorite things. And thank you SO much for your book review input, that is extremely helpful and is thankfully what I had in mind!

  3. I love reading Donna’s blog and posts, too, but I just won’t live her lifestyle. I do not coupon and I do not do Coke rewards or Swagbucks or whatever. That sort of stuff makes me feel like a tool, and I don’t want that. Way to go for for Donna for making it into something that works for her, though!

    Credit scores…I don’t really think about them. I was turned down to refinance my house last December due to the poor market dropping my home value below 20% equity. My credit was fine, but I still got screwed. So credit scores are only part of the equation and it doesn’t always matter.

    I find garage sales too much work, too. No thank you. I’d rather donate my stuff most of the time. And I do document it for tax purposes. That’s not to say that I’m not tempted to sell things occasionally. Actually, I’d rather barter stuff if I can. I have a portable greenhouse that’s been sitting in my backyard, unused, for years. I’ll never recover the cost of it, but maybe I can barter for it with someone for something I want/need.

    Food, though, I could go on and on about food. Do you cook frequently? I love to cook and grow food in my garden. If you find a few recipes that you can execute well in a short period of time I’m sure your family will appreciate them and you’ll find that it’s a great money (and time) saver. Yes, cooking doesn’t always have to be exhausting and take place every evening. When we were suffering through a major heat wave last week, I made some quick salads for dinner like cucumber salad, lentil salad, crab salad on crackers (I had some canned crab in the pantry I wanted to use), egg salad, etc. I think kids would love to eat a dinner of crackers, fruit, and cheese or egg salad, and that would be easy to put together. I like cooking so much that I often look at cookbooks as my bedtime reading. Really. I think it makes me a better cook, too, because the reading is planting ideas and helping me make sense of what sorts of ingredients work together.

    The thing I am sick of hearing about on PF blogs is Roth IRAs and investing in rental properties. Again: neither are for me. (Don’t hate me, but I can’t do a Roth IRA because of my income; I do contribute to a Roth 401(k), though.) Dividend investing interests me, and I asked my financial adviser about it recently. I should write a blog post about that.

    • The Roth IRA limit thing seems hinky for single people compared to married people. Because I’m married, and (I think) because our AGI is lowered by our 401k traditional contributions (and maybe also by having a kid, the mortgage, and donations… again, not 100% sure since I only think about this once a year), we can contribute to a Roth, but we can’t get a tax benefit on a traditional IRA.

  4. Thanks for mentioning Credit Karma! I hope our tools and resources can help you build that credit back up. Also – lots of other great resources here. Thanks for the reads!

  5. I always go back and forth about blog ads as well. I just learned about which I think is super awesome and makes it a lot less work, but I still don’t know whether (a) I have enough hits to my blog to attract advertisers (b) if I blog regularly enough to attract advertisers (c) if that means I have to blog more regularly and then I’ll stress about it! I like how it can attract more indie business though, and it’s not like a huge google ad or an ad for Viagra or something.

  6. Can I have those Coke Rewards if you don’t want them???
    And have you gotten friends into doing them for you? A couple of people e-mail them to me. My niece keeps them until I visit. My best pal in Alaska saves them until I come up to stay with her and — horrors! — she’s taken to fishing them out of the recycle bin at work. I’ve also gotten her into Swagbucks. (Insert evil laugh here.)
    Oh, and I found six cents yesterday. It’s going to be a good year for the food-bank donation — the vase I put all found money in is about three-quarters full.

    • I actually keep entering them, slowly but surely. You know, I have tried recruiting friends and family but they all “forget.” The emailing isn’t a bad idea! I’m not a good salesperson because I haven’t been able to get anyone into Swagbucks either! Which is a shame because that one I’ve definitely reaped rewards from. I love you Donna, you’re amazing.

  7. Pingback: Linkin’ and lovin’ « Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured

  8. The coke rewards thing reminds me of my coupon mania…like my utter refusal to buy something because “I have a coupon for it” at home or I know it’ll go on sale in the next month. I stopped buying english muffins completely because they stopped putting the raisin ones on sale (just the plain which I don’t like as much). Anyway, I buy them again because I missed eating them after a year…but it took some major effort to do it.

    Seems stupid that I’ll pinch pennies on groceries because it’s in the forefront of my mind, but don’t try to maximize my investments better which I’m sure could yield a lot bigger return than saving $1 on a pack of muffins..Ah, the dumb stuff we do.


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